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A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (book review and recommendation)

I had to read this novel for my dystopian literature elective course back in the day, but the fact that it was a mandatory reading didn't take one bit of enjoyment from it.  I've been dying to reread it again and I hope this Summer I will get the chance to do so for it is really an exceptional piece of writing.

I happen to think that the final chapter is fundamental for the understanding of this novel. It ties everything together nicely and it adds depth to Alex (the protagonist) in a way that I found quite convincing. Somehow, it even makes him more credible as a character. It doesn't seem like too sudden a change, considering everything he undergoes towards the end of the novel. That's my opinion and I'm sticking with it. The final chapter makes the novel take on a whole new perspective. Too bad that it was not in any way a part of the film version (and if I remember well, the ending was dropped out entirely when the book was published in USA, so it is not really the director's fault because he had read the novel without the last chapter and when he found out about it he didn't really take to it).

Long story short, this isn't novel that glorifies violence, but there are some not very long but pretty graphic descriptions of it, so if you can stand that sort of thing, don't take up reading this one. I remember not liking the film when I saw it, but now that I have read the book, I sort of warmed up to it. Not that I have a desire to see it again, not that I consider it to be a good interpretation of the novel, but it appeals to me visually (at least in my memory, it's been ages since I saw it). I still can't say that I like the film version, but at least it is stuck in my memory.

That being said, I don't see the actor who played Alex in the film when I think of Alex's the character. This book is not only much better than the film, it is an entirely different world...and what a world it is. Beautifully crafted world, with an impressive set and characters. The setting and the feel of it are absolutely fabulous. This dystopian future where children and teenagers are left to their own devices, where nobody takes the time to raise the kids or the young, where there are left to the street to raise them. 

This world of violence and isolation sounded terribly convincing and I could certainly see it as something that is relevant for our time….I would even go so far as to say it is something that is already happening. For indeed, in the modern world nobody seems to have the time to do the parenting. Contrary to what some new age therapist might think, a child and a teenager don't need parents that are their friends, they need parents who do the parenting. If a parent acts towards the child as a friend, the child will feel neglected and rightfully so. 

Anyhow, Burgess painted this dim world of future with impressive precision. With language, descriptions and characters he created it perfectly. He introduced a set of impeccably portrayed characters. The language he created adds greatly to that. I believe that the language was intentionally designed to be hard to process at first, but becoming more understandable as you progress with the reading. In this way, the author avoided using any slang that might sound dated by the time the novel was published or by the time you get to read it.

He used words from Russian, mixing them with English, in order to create this street idiom and he did a great job. I found the language too easy to understand but that couldn't be helped having a slavic language for a mother tongue. I think I would have enjoyed it better if I had to figure out some things on my own, but the word play was certainly enough to deeply impress me for it was very cleaver ( for example consider Bog meaning God in Slavic languages and something quite different in English). This writer has a way with words. The protagonists of this novel are all teenagers, pretty wild, animalistic and hormone driven. Perhaps it could be said that there is only one real protagonist because the other boys are not examined in detail like Alex. 

They are a sadistic group of boys. Left on their own, like most youth, they do some amazingly cruel and violent things. Alex was easy to relate to, despite everything what he does because it is was clear from the strat that there is something essentially good about him. Something stacked under a lot of horrible things, but still something decent was there, one could notice it in details, for example in his appreaciation o classic music. Future readers will perhaps even feel horrified at how easy it will be to sympathize with Alex, especially taken the fact he commits unspeakable acts.

I stumbled somewhere on a piece of information that Burgess wrote this novel as a way of coming to terms with the attackers of his wife ( if I understood well). If that is so, it is indeed incredibly brave of him, to be able to raise up like that and choose love over hate. To raise above sadness and create art. How ironic that some have interpreted this novel as an ode to violence for it is certainly not the case. This is a novel about the importance of free choice….and I would also add about the importance of parenting. When you leave kids to their own devices, terrible things are bound to happen. This novel is a great warning against that. It feels fresh and inspired. In addition, it is amazingly well written and quite original! There is music in it, brilliant music coming out of every page, urging you to listen! This novel has that power that music has over us. A Clockwork Orange is a novel that deserves its hype.


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